Gameplanet: Can you provide us with an overview of your goals for InFamous 2? What shortcomings in the original are you hoping to remedy?
Joe Ishikura: I think the best way to answer this question is to share the two mantras that we kept repeating to ourselves throughout development: “InFamous 2, not InFamous 1.5” and “Leave no stone unturned”.
The phrase “InFamous 2, not InFamous 1.5” was all about making sure we made a big leap from InFamous 1. We didn’t want to make small tweaks to InFamous 1 and then put that out on shelves. We really wanted to improve everything across the board.
This meant that nothing was holy. We weren’t going to “leave any stone unturned”. Just because something was pretty good in InFamous 1, it didn’t mean it was exempt from improvement. We were really happy with our parkour system in InFamous 1, but we made a ton of big (like the new car jump ability) and little changes (like more fluid motion and an upgraded version of the Static Thrusters ability) to it.
Of course, we also tried to improve things that didn’t go so well in InFamous 1 too. We tried to improve the presentation level of the entire game, particularly with our new Motion Captured cutscenes. The gameplay got a lot of big changes too. Probably the system that got the most visible overhaul was our close quarters combat or “melee” system. It’s much cooler this time around and is definitely one of the highlights of the game.
Gameplanet: Talk us through the new setting, why the change?
Ishikura: The change in setting is really part of the “InFamous 2, not InFamous 1.5” mindset. It’s one of the biggest, most obvious changes from InFamous 1 and helps illustrate a lot of the big gameplay changes we made.
The new city, New Marais, is inspired by New Orleans, a city in the southern part of the States.
The first thing that comes to anyone’s mind when they see New Marais is just how beautiful it is. It’s vibrant and colorful, but not ostentatiously so. I really think our art team did an amazing job just making a beautiful looking city for you to be in.
But beyond that, it’s a fun place to be in too. I like to think of it like a big skatepark, like ones would have seen in the old Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. Whether you’re playing a mission or not, it’s a really fun city to zip around in.
One of the cues we took from New Orleans is the variety in the areas. New Orleans is filled with lots of distinct locales and we tried to bring that over to New Marais. In New Marais, as in New Orleans, you’ll see things like an above-ground graveyard, where our close quarters combat really shines, a huge American Civil War-era fort, which is great for long range tower-to-tower style combat, and Ville Cochon, our equivalent of New Orleans’ famous French Quarter, where I guarantee you’ll spend at least half your time knocking down huge verandas. Of course, there are a lot more districts that you’ll have to explore for yourself!
Gameplanet: You've reworked the Karma system, how has it been improved?
Ishikura: There are a lot of changes to talk about, but at the high level, I think approach was simply this: make the choices and consequences more grounded. One of the big ways we did this was by making a lot of the player’s choices relationship based, linked to our two new super powered allies: Kuo and Nix. Kuo and Nix, who represent order and chaos respectively, are sort of your guide through Karmic choices.
But it’s all a part of our push to make sure the choices affected things that made sense in the game. In InFamous 1, we had some choices that were a little too abstract, like Cole’s decision about whether to greedily take some food for himself (canned prunes, it turns out) or to share it with other people in Empire City. It turns out, since the player didn’t have a “Hunger” meter and the citizens didn’t either, it was hard for players to understand what the consequences of his choices would be. In InFamous 2, things are much clearer: whether you’re choosing which mission to play or whether you want Nix or Kuo’s powers, the choices affect things you understand and care about.
Gameplanet: Are the options presented to Cole only ever binary, good or evil, or is there room for grey?
Ishikura: One of my favorite additions to the Karma system is our new Systemic Karma Opportunities feature. They’re small opportunities scattered throughout the game where players can choose to do things that are good or evil. It’s great for letting players express what kind of super hero they want to be.
But I think the more interesting wrinkle is that we use these Karmic Opportunities to try to tempt players to go against their current Karmic alignment. For Good players, we have civilians that have Blast Shards in their possession walking around the world. Is it worth taking down the civilian to get just one more Blast Shard? What if you only need one more for your next upgrade? We tried to include as many Karmic Opportunities like these that represent conscious temptations for the player as we could.
Whether you want to play the entire game doing only Good or Evil acts is entirely up to you. But if we did our jobs right, you’ll be definitely be tempted to mix it up some.
Gameplanet: What impact do Cole's decisions have?
Ishikura: It’s got a ton of impact across the board. About 20-25% of the missions are karma linked, which means you won’t see all of that content on any single playthrough. Your relationship with Kuo and Nix will be dictated by your choices. Whether you get Ice or Fire powers is dictated by whether you choose to transfer powers from Kuo or Nix, so that’s linked to your decisions as well. New Marais herself will be physically impacted by your choices. We really made a big push to make your choices matter in InFamous 2.
Gameplanet: What changes have been made to combat in inFamous 2?
Ishikura: Combat in InFamous is all about powers. We’ve made a ton of changes to the powers this time around from introducing the new “Ionic Powers”, which are huge street-clearing abilities like the new Ionic Vortex tornado, to the new Powers Variants system that lets player switch between multiple variants of their powers on the fly.
Gameplanet: Talk us through the implementation of User Generated Content. What's your goal here?